Commentary

Bruschi on Tap: Six observations

Patriots road woes resurface in a loss that could serve as a blueprint for future foes

Updated: September 20, 2010, 4:11 PM ET
By Tedy Bruschi | ESPNBoston.com

Six observations from the New England Patriots' 28-14 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium:

1. Old problems resurface on the road. On the road against a tough team in a hostile environment -- this is what the Patriots had trouble with last year. Their only road win last year was in Buffalo. I know they were 2-6 on the road, but one of those victories was in London. When they've played these tough teams on the road, they haven't come up with the plays they've needed to. When you can't win on the road, it means you're having trouble with adversity, dealing with the crowd, and being out of your comfortable routine. You have to have the attitude in the locker room before the game that "this is all we have, this is all we need." That's what we used to say in the locker room before playing on the road. Players are making mistakes on the road that they aren't making at home, which speaks to a lack of focus. Road wins define championship teams. Dating back to last year, the Patriots are one of the league's worst road teams.

2. Patriots gave Randy Moss a chance to answer Darrelle Revis, but matchup wasn't a big factor in outcome. Everyone was looking forward to this matchup, but it turned out to be not much to watch. The Patriots tested Revis early, with a fake reverse and deep pass to Moss, and that was a sign that the Patriots wanted to get Moss going early and give him a chance to answer the "slouch" comment that Revis made in the offseason. Then, of course, Randy beat him for the one-handed touchdown, with Revis immediately grabbing his hamstring. That was the end of that. So, overall, I didn't think there was much there to look for. As for Revis' hamstring injury, you can say that he used that as an excuse to take himself out of the game, but I don't see it that way. This hamstring injury is a result of the extended holdout that he went through during training camp. You can say training camp isn't necessary all you want, but football shape is something that cannot be attained unless you are playing football. When skill position players miss time, hamstring pulls are common because their muscles rarely open up in private workouts the way they do on the football field. Hamstrings are a tricky injury for skill players. This could be a cause for concern for the Jets as the season progresses.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan and Braylon Edwards
Al Pereira/Getty ImagesIt was Rex Ryan -- and not Bill Belichick -- who made difference-making game plan adjustments on Sunday.

3. Defensive adjustments by Jets coach Rex Ryan a key factor in game. The adjustments Ryan made on defense caught my eye. He's been all about coming after the quarterback, overloading formations and putting pressure on the offense. From the beginning, even with Revis, there was an element of a three-man rush. On Jason Taylor's strip sack of Tom Brady, when Taylor beat Matt Light with the spin move back inside, that was a three-man rush. You have to give credit to Ryan for making adjustments and not being hardheaded, because the more he blitzes the more teams are starting to make adjustments and buy their quarterbacks more time. Adding the element of a three-man rush gave Tom Brady a max coverage look to decipher along with having to anticipate max pressure.

4. Defensive problems crop up with penalties and corners. A can of worms could have been opened in this game for the Patriots. Penalties led to points, with Darius Butler's two pass interference calls and Tully Banta-Cain's late hit. The Patriots made it easy for the Jets with the penalties. When you have a young defense, you can't give away any free yards. Make it hard for them to drive the field -- first down, second down, third down. The can of worms I'm talking about is that in the season opener, the Patriots looked young, energetic and fundamentally sound. This week, they've given their future opponents some targets to focus on: the two young cornerbacks, Darius Butler and Devin McCourty. Both corners were beaten for touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery beat McCourty on a jerk route when McCourty got his eyes caught in the offensive backfield. Butler was beaten by Braylon Edwards for a touchdown and two-point conversion. Most discouraging for the Patriots' defense was that the Jets had long sustained drives -- 77, 80, 70 and 63 yards. When you let offenses drive on you like that, it wears you down, and when you show weaknesses you can bet that your future opponents will attempt to exploit them again.

5. Second-half game plan needed a spark. The Patriots had some creative formations in the first half of the past two games: Wes Welker in the wide bunch formation on the bubble screen, out of which he scored his first touchdown of the year, with two tight ends in front of him; and against the Jets, Julian Edelman lined up as a running back before motioning out into an empty look. These are creative formations that Bill O'Brien and the offensive staff are thinking of that are keeping defenses off guard in the first half. I noticed matchups in this game that were favorable to the Patriots: Bart Scott on Welker, David Harris on Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Cromartie on Welker. These are the mismatches and formations that they couldn't exploit in the second half. Why these can't be executed as well in the second half is something to watch. The Patriots look like two different teams between the first and second half. Making sideline adjustments has always been a strength of the Patriots. They must improve in this area.

6. Jets' big-name acquisitions come up big. The Jets paid a lot of money this offseason to sign free-agent players with big résumés, and those players came up big for them. LaDainian Tomlinson, for the second straight week, looked really good. I've been very impressed with the way he's been running, and he may take even more carries away from Shonn Greene in the future. Cromartie, for all his penalties and mistakes, is still a cornerback with a short-term memory. He forgot those mistakes and the last two weeks has come up with big-time plays and interceptions. Then Jason Taylor showed up, making a big defensive play in the game on a three-man rush, with the inside spin move on Light and strip sack of Brady. These are personnel moves that Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has made and they're starting to pay off. A victory like this can reinforce the thought that you made the right moves because big-time players came up big in a big-time game.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team.

Tedy Bruschi

Columnist, ESPN.com
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round out of Arizona. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three. He retired prior to the 2009 season.

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